Central memory T cells (TCM) patrol lymph nodes, providing central immunosurveillance against known pathogens, but have not been described as conducting primary tissue immunosurveillance. We analyzed the expression of tissue-homing addressins in human TCM vs effector memory T cells (TEM) from the same donors. In humans, the majority of human TCM were tropic for either skin or gut, and the overall tissue tropism of TCM was comparable to that of TEM TCM were present in healthy, noninflamed human skin, lung, colon, and cervix, suggesting a role for TCM in the primary immunosurveillance of peripheral tissues. TCM also had potent effector functions; 80% of CD8+ TCM produced TC1/TC2/TC17/TC22 cytokines. TCM injected into human skin-grafted mice migrated into skin and induced inflammatory eruptions comparable to TEM-injected mice. In summary, human TCM express peripheral tissue-homing receptors at levels similar to their effector memory counterparts, are found in healthy human tissues, have impressive effector functions, and can act alone to induce skin inflammation in human engrafted mice. Our studies support a novel role for human TCM in primary immunosurveillance of peripheral tissues and highlight the important role of this long-lived cell type in tissue-based immune responses.
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